Local News

Setback For Mambilla Hydropower Project As Surveyors Leave Site 

For years, the 3,050 megawatts (MW) Mambilla hydropower project was only on paper until December 2020 when physical surveys began. But all that has ended as the latest update indicates that surveyors, who have not been paid, have left the assumed site, while residents, whose buildings were marked severally, have not received any compensation.

This may be spelling doom for the project, believed to be one of the most ambitious power plant projects in West Africa. The fresh obstacles are coming at a time when the federal government is already struggling to get the bulk (85 per cent) of the $5.792billion (about N5.3 trillion) funding from the China Exim Bank, which has rated the project below the 3050MW capacity presented by the government.

The survey contract was awarded by the Federal Ministry of Power at over N987million and the contractors mobilised to site after part payment by the ministry through the Taraba State Government.

And in spite of a N650m allocation in the 2022 budget for consultancy works, survey fees, counterpart funding, way leave consultancy, among other usual expenses that have dogged the project for over a decade, representatives of the 10 surveying firms said they left the site because they had not been paid for nearly two years, even when survey works advanced at the project site in Sardauna Local Government Area of Taraba State.

According to one of the surveyors, Rotimi Apere, each of the 10 firms got 45 to 50 square kilometres of the site to survey and demarcate across three local government areas – Sardauna, Donga and Kurmi in Taraba State and part of Benue.

He said about 45 per cent of the survey work was covered in Barup, Mbamnga, Kwarakwara, Hainare, Warwar and Vakkwade areas of the survey area, but without further funding they could not continue.

Another source who craved anonymity said the federal government had already paid the total contract sum for the survey into the Taraba State Government account and signed a memorandum of understanding with the state to clear the balance, and also to clear compensation issues for the affected residents in the marked area.

“The entire land for the project belongs to the Taraba State Government, and since it is the state government that will issue a certificate of occupancy to the federal government, payment of compensation and that of survey works must be handled by it,” the source said.

The state was also to provide security cover for the workers as long as the survey lasted, but the state was said to have defaulted on its role in the tripartite pact that comprises the surveying firms, the state and the federal government.

“We spent N290m for security and transportation for the 160 days we spent in the field for survey work,” Mr Apere said, noting that the state failed to do its bit.

“We have no option than to pull out of the site and request for funds from the state government, and up till now, there is no positive response from the government. We also requested for receipt of tax deduction from money paid to us by the Taraba Ministry of Power, but there was no response,” he added.

Worried by the lack of response, the surveyors said they wrote to Governor Darius Ishiaku of Taraba on March 29, 2022, demanding payment before returning to site.

“We are ready to return to sites as soon as the requests are given urgent attention and the payment fully made,” the letter stated, but the governor was yet to respond to it, Apere said.

“From all indications, the Taraba State Government is frustrating our work because the federal government paid the entire contract money for the survey into its account, and now, the state is not willing to release the money to us,” he said, adding that the surveys may seek legal action.

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